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Parents & Families

The Sunflower Jar

The most important element of any experiment is a caring adult. This activity is appropriate for a child who has exchanged asking “why” for asking “how.”  “How do plants grow?
How do plants in the woods get started? How do the stores get all that food?”

– Place wet paper towels in a glass jar. Paper towel should be placed loosely, not packed down.

– Position 4-6 seeds against the insides of the jar so they can be seen. The number of seeds depends on the size of your jar. The sprouts will need room for roots.

– Place your sunflower jar in a window for light.

– Water daily with a spray bottle or sprinkle water lightly with your hands. Keep the towels a moist place for the seeds.

– In a few days sprouts from the seeds will appear. Then come roots. When the sprouts have two leaves and are two inches tall, you can plant them in a pot.

What do children learn from the activity?

  • How materials absorb water
  • What plants need to grow
  • Plants are delicate when they are young
  • Measurement


Glass jar or smooth plastic container

Paper towels


Packet of seeds

Extend the experience

Potting your sunflower sprouts

– Put about one inch of pebbles or small rocks in the bottom of the pot.

– Fill the pot about half full of soil and press it down.

– Add loose soil to fill the pot and make a hole with your finger big enough to fit the sprout roots without crowding them.

– Prepare all your pots before you take the sprouts out of the jar. Remove the paper towel and sprouts and gently separate the sprouts from the paper.

– Place one sprout in the pot and gently fill the rest of the soil into the pot. Press down gently.

– Slowly add water until it drains out the bottom of the pot. (You will not need to water this heavily again.)

– If the soil level goes down, add more soil to within ½ inch of the top.

– Sunflowers need full sun to grow. Place your plant in a very sunny window or a safe place outside in the sun.

– When your seedling is too big for its pot, move it to a larger one or make a mini garden in your yard.

Extend the experience

– Place a stick or dowel in the larger pot and measure the plant’s growth. Keep a log of the growth. Sunflowers can grow from 2 feet to 12 feet tall!


Pots for each sprout

– Recycled plastic bottles or cups make fine pots for spouts. An adult should cut the bottle to about 4 inches tall and make 3 to 4 holes in the bottom for drainage. Holes should smaller than a pencil barrel.

Old dishes or bowls for each pot

– Container can be recycled plastic or glass


– You can use the top half of the bottle as a shovel to collect your soil if it is strong enough.


– Soil can be collected from your own yard or a nearby wooded area. Take enough soil to fill your pot(s) and the shovel.


– Collect a handful of pebbles or small stones.

View our PDF version here.

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